What if the future is not at all what we imagine it to be?
Rono was sharpening the tip. He gently and accurately beat the edges until the shape became more or less acceptable. Then, methodically, he recut the excess with a stone. Rono already had a hunting weapon, but the spearhead was broken during the last hunt. The man had to make the new one. He worked all night, working on a new tool, attaching a chiseled stone to a sturdy stick, tying it with rope, and weighing a spear in his hand. Aya and the children were sleeping at the back of the cave. Before them, their ancestors lived here, and the ancestors of their ancestors. They left their offspring a legacy passed down from generation to generation.
Rono put down his spear and walked over to the sleeping family. Aya lay in the middle, hugging Eo and Oa with both arms. The children's faces seemed so ... peaceful. He carefully covered the family with a spotted hide. Dawn was approaching and it was necessary to prepare for the hunt, the stocks of meat were coming to an end. Due to the high humidity and heat, there was nowhere to store it. Previously, a hole had been dug in every cave to keep food there, but every year it got hotter and the meat quickly rotted.
The man's gaze fell on Oa's hand, the girl was clutching a piece of skin in her palm. Rono took it and in the light of the fire, the iridescent reflection of his own face gleamed dimly. Again, the daughter took the Thing to play with. This ... was one of the legacies left by the ancestors. They called it...
Rono moved his lips as if trying to make some sound. What did they call that Thing? He didn't remember. But his father did. His father also knew how to make Sounds. Not the sounds Rono and Aya made. Real Sounds. Clear, loud, long, and short, with a lot of gesticulation. Probably their grandfather and great-grandfather knew much more, and they taught their children, trying to pass on long-forgotten knowledge. And Rono was taught too. Yes, as a child, he could sound like a father, repeating after him. But gradually everything was forgotten. The little boy became an orphan when he was six seasons, his mother died in childbirth, and his father was killed in the hunt. These were difficult times, many hunters died, an unusual heat got worse and worse, and the tribe had to get used to the strange weather. Many of Rono's tribesmen died of disease. Others were mauled by animals that came to these lands with warmth and sun.
No one else made Sounds, everyone became silent and sullen, there was only a struggle for survival. And Rono fell silent too. Sometimes he exchanged short exclamations with others, but no one else taught their children about the past.
Rono sighed and walked over to the rough, uneven wall. The lines left by his father were still preserved on it. Previously, Rono would often pick up a piece of charred wood and trace these lines, making them bright and visible again. He circled and repeated to himself every story connected with them. As his father did. But now everything was almost erased, both from the wall and from the grown man’s memory.
The hunter took a half-burnt stick, extinguished the flame in the dust, waited until it cooled down, and carefully circled the first barely noticeable line. Trying to remember what father showed him with gestures, interspersed all this with a series of Sounds.
It was ... What was it? Rono took a step back, examining an incomprehensible figure that looked like ... What? He turned, looked at the prancing fire, then back at the wall. It was Fire. Yes, maybe. That Fire burned everything in its path. It ascended into the sky and even burned Heaven. The sun was gone, instead of it, Black Rain began to fall on the ground, killing what the flame did not have time to kill.
Rono outlined the following strokes. He couldn't sound like a father or grandfather, but he could still think. The thoughts in his head were like colorful pictures, vivid, like the world outside the cave. And he could imagine how the terrible blaze destroyed the tribesmen of his ancestors: he looked at the black thin figures scattered in disorder and drew a line over them.
But someone survived.
Before Rono stood a lonely figure, absurdly disproportionate, just a set of black sticks drawn in charcoal. And around it - a triangle of nothing: they found a shelter, a place to hide from the Black Rain.
The hunter diligently imitated the half-erased signs anew, collecting the stories grain by grain in his memory.
Then something more terrible than flame and rain came. Hunger. The tribes were forced to leave their caves in search of better land. There, where Black Rain and Fire did not destroy everything, where it was still possible to hunt. And they found it, leaving many dead behinds. But in those places, it turned out to be no less scary.
Monsters appeared on the wall in the leaping light of the fire. They towered over the figures of people, opening their jaws from where crooked fangs protruded.
The ancestors came here. It was a long, long time ago. In those days, these lands were covered with snow and ice, but even Rona's father did not see it.
There were other figurines depicted in strange poses and bizarre skins. Rono did not remember what they meant, and they were almost erased, leaving behind only smoky silhouettes. A drawn circle was preserved near the head of one of them, the other was holding a strangely shaped stick in his hands ... The hunter knew that these tribes lived long before him and they had amazing Things, like the one played by Oa. Beautiful and shiny.
Their ancestors taught them to hunt, conveyed their knowledge as best they could.
Rono touched the figures of horned beasts, surrounded by other figures with sticks and spears. There was soot on his fingers. He saw similar drawings in some caves of his fellow tribesmen, and they were not black, but the color of ripe manti, the sweet fruit from the manti tree.
The man sighed again. If he returns from a hunt alive, he will definitely ask where to get such color and draw these lines for them. For his children. And he will try to explain to them what those paintings mean. Both Eo and Oa communicated only by signs, loud sounds made by the mouth could attract predators. But Rono will try anyway, remember how his father did it, and teach the children.
The sun was rising. The hunter got up, took one last look at the family, and pushed back the stone that was blocking the cave entrance. The bright sunset, as if washed by the morning freshness, did not in any way remind of the tons of radioactive emissions that had once risen into the Earth's atmosphere. Part of the planet was still buried under a layer of ice and snow, the other part was covered with subtropics.
The planet survived, throwing off decades of poisonous precipitation, radiation, and patching up the ozone layer again. Memories of the past remained only on the walls of the caves, drawings half-erased from time, the meanings of which have long been lost in time.
Rono was joined by his kin, dressed only in animal skins. Basically, these were only loincloths. They walked silently into the depths of the rainforest, trying to step silently. Nocturnal predators lurked in the shadows of shelters, others came out to replace them. A new day has begun, full of the struggle for survival.
The hunters scattered a little, tracking down possible prey. Suddenly there was a shrill scream that made them duck in horror. Wings flapped, a giant shadow flashed in the sky, covering the treetops. Announcing the forest with its crackling hoarse cry, something like a bird of huge size flew by. Its webbed wings made of a skin membrane easily lifted into the air a sinewy body, equipped with a narrow head and a long, sharp beak. The shadow soared upward, floating above the bright green thickets, where powerful striped predators paced slowly.